Strengthening Recycling Focus


Strengthening Recycling Focus of Legislative & Administrative Efforts

SWANA joins EPA, ASTSWMO and others for America Recycles Day Events and U.S. Congress responds to recycling challenges with several new bills.

America Recycles Day 2019

The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) and the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO) joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other recycling stakeholders from across the country in high-profile events in conjunction with America Recycles Day (ARD) 2019.

ARD has long been an opportunity for the recycling industry, government, and the public to come together to celebrate the benefits of recycling and plan for its future. A variety of international and domestic challenges have put pressure on the system, adding urgency and a higher profile to this year’s events.

On November 14, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), hosted the first-ever America Recycles Innovation Fair featuring entrepreneurs from across the recycling system showcasing their innovative products, services, outreach, and technologies. The Innovation Fair was hosted by EPA in partnership with SWANA, the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries, Keep America Beautiful, and The Recycling Partnership.

This event brought 45 exhibitors from across the nation together in Washington D.C. and had over 600 registrants. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler spoke at the event and presented challenge coins, in conjunction with the National Waste & Recycling Association, to veterans recognizing their service and commitment to environmental protection. Administrator Wheeler then visited with each of the exhibitors prior to a reception sponsored by Keep America Beautiful.

On November 15, EPA convened 36 senior executives from across the recycling value chain for a roundtable conversation on actions underway, as well as those needed to address recycling infrastructure investment gaps and market development needs. SWANA was represented at the Executive Roundtable by Executive Director & CEO David Biderman and ASTSWMO by ASTSWMO President Conchita Taitano.

After remarks by Administrator Wheeler, EPA's Office of Land and Emergency Management Assistant Administrator Peter Wright, the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality Chairman Mary Neumayr, and Office of Science and Technology Director Kelvin Droegemeier, participants engaged in a facilitated dialogue about their current activities and future goals.

The Roundtable was immediately followed by the 2nd Annual Recycling Summit attended by about 200 people and open to the press, where the National Framework for Advancing the U.S. Recycling System was released. Administrator Wheeler also announced that EPA will work to establish voluntary national recycling goal in 2020. The targets will be similar to the agency's existing goal to reduce food waste. As outlined in the National Framework, these goals will be developed with underlying indicators that describe the performance of different components of the recycling system, to inspire action and drive participation, innovation, and progress across the entire value chain, including consumers.

A year ago on ARD 2018, SWANA and ASTSWMO signed the America Recycles Pledge, along with EPA and several dozen other stakeholders, committing to work together to build on existing efforts and identify new solutions to address the challenges facing our nation’s recycling system. Since then the pledge has received over 100 more signatures and the participating organizations have met regularly to undertake actions to promote education and outreach, enhance materials management infrastructure, strengthen secondary materials markets and improve measurement. The National Framework details those efforts to-date and outlines future activities. The 2019 Summit was a chance to highlight the successes of this work and to announce new initiatives.

SWANA and ASTSWMO are proud to have taken part in these historic America Recycles Day activities and appreciate the work of our membership to guide our efforts in developing the National Framework. Interested organizations are encouraged to get involved and sign the America Recycles Pledge.


Congressional Recycling Legislation

The flurry of activity surrounding ARD 2019 has also been matched by activity on the Hill to address recycling and solid waste management in the United States. Though often considered a state and local issue, a national conversation about recycling, and plastics in particular, has resulted in a legislative response within the U.S. Congress.

Legislation was introduced on November 21 to address recycling outreach and public education by United States Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). The Recycling Enhancements to Collection and Yield through Consumer Learning and Education (RECYCLE) Act provides $50 million in competitive grants to states, local and tribal governments, non-profit organizations, and public-private partnerships to improve the effectiveness of residential recycling programs though public education and outreach.

On November 15, Representative Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) and Representative Larry Bucshon (R-IN) introduced the Realizing the Economic Opportunities and Value of Expanding Recycling (RECOVER) Act in the House of Representatives. This bill will provide $500 million in federal funds for states, local governments and tribes to invest in improving recycling infrastructure over 5 years. These funds cannot exceed 50 percent of the total cost of the project or program. This legislation is supported by a broad group of recycling stakeholders, including SWANA.

"Through public-private partnerships and a new grants program, we will help communities across the nation with the creation and modernization of their recycling infrastructure," said Representative Cárdenas.

The day before the RECOVER Act’s introduction, another major piece of legislation affecting materials management advanced, the Save Our Seas 2.0 (SOS 2.0) Act. The legislation was divided into three parts, with the third portion passing out of the Senate Commerce Committee on November 14. Of note for the solid waste industry is the portion titled, Save Our Seas 2.0:  Improving Domestic Infrastructure to Prevent Marine Debris Act. It is intended to strengthen domestic infrastructure to prevent the creation of new marine debris and includes $55 million annually for five years to states for grant program to improve local waste management systems and recycling programs. An additional $10 million dollars annually for five years is given to trash-free water grants for local governments, tribes, and nonprofit organizations. The bill also requires EPA to develop a strategy for improving post-consumer materials management along with several other reports and studies.

In addition to this legislation that has been introduced, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) are circulating a discussion draft of legislation intended to address plastic waste. Among other actions, it would require producer responsibility for collecting and recycling materials and require nationwide container deposits. A shorter outline of this legislation was previously circulated for comment during which they received 150 responses.

If you have questions or comments concerning any of this summary, please feel free to contact Jesse Maxwell, Advocacy and Safety Manager, SWANA, at 240-494-2237 or